Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.


Geoff Kelly,  MSc Hons

This report is based on a Library Tasting presented at Regional Wines,  Wellington,  in July,  2019.  With several Rhone tastings reported on recently,  introductory material here can be brief.  A compiled summary of quality for recent vintages in the Southern Rhone Valley,  plus an outline of the main grapes in the wines,  and what is meant by the garrigue complexity factor on bouquet,  is given in my The 2016 Vintage in the Southern Rhone Valley,  Part 3 review.

Conclusions from the tasting:
Writing in Decanter in 2007,  John Livingstone-Learmonth felt that the 2005 vintage in both the Northern and the Southern Rhone Valley was just as impressive as in Bordeaux and Burgundy.  The wines in the South,  he said,  showed more balance than the 1998s,  more stuffing than the 2001s,  are tighter-knit than 1990s,  yet more rounded than the 1989s.  He liked their freshness.  For our tasting,  coming to them immediately after the 2016 Southern Rhone review,  the first impression was one of contrast,  not quite the vivid florality and aromatics of the exceptional 2016s.  Yet as one settled into the tasting,  one quickly found many fragrant and beautifully balanced wines,  just starting to show at 14 years of age the harmony of first maturity.  The wines were (naturally) selected for perceived quality at the point of cellaring,  so the set of 12 was not a random sample.  An indication of the quality of the wines is given by half of them scoring at or above the New Zealand gold medal level (18.5 = 92.5),  in a more conservative application of the marks than applies in standard wine-writing / judging practice in New Zealand.  The wines have good tannin  structure and sufficient acid,  so with their good fruit,  many of the better wines have another 15 years of quality maturity ahead of them,  for those who like mature wine.  As with most better Southern Rhone Valley vintages in the last 15 years,  however,  for rather many wines one wishes the alcohols were appreciably lower.

This 2005 Southern Rhone Valley tasting was undertaken in the midst of the evaluations for the remarkable 2016 Southern Rhone wines.  The first impression was the contrast,  the remarkable freshness of the 2016s,  vs the the 2005s at the start of their plateau of maturity,  yet by no means showing undue age.  And as soon as one was immersed in them,  2005 really is a quality vintage in the Southern Rhone Valley.  Six of the 12 wines were clearly of gold-medal standard.  From the left:  2005  Tardieu-Laurent Chateauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes,  aromatic on cedary new oak,  very much a modern wine,  but has the richness to carry the oak, 18.5;  2005  Domaine de la Janasse Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Chaupin,  lovely grenache emulating pinot noir in a slightly spirity way,  18.5;  2005  Clos des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape,  all the delicacy this winery is famous for,  wonderful red fruits,  classical, 18.5 +;  2005  Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape La Crau,  subtle,  yet showing all the beauty of great Southern Rhone wine,  you could sniff and savour this all night, 19;  2005  Domaine de la Janasse Chateauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes, a richer and darker wine than its neighbours,  with amazing concentration of flavour,  clearly the top wine for the group, 19;  2005  Domaine de Marcoux Chateauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes, all red fruits,  understated,  burgundian in the way nearly pure grenache can be,  with the greatest dry extract / mouthfeel of any wine in the set,  remarkable, 19 +

Invitation to the tasting – Background:
In the last 12 months we have run Library Tastings on the warm-year 1998 Chateauneuf-du-Papes and Gigondas wines (July,  2018),  and then the in some ways more charming 1999 wines from the same appellations March,  1999.  We have also had Worth Cellaring Tastings for the Southern Rhone Valley,  first the 2015 offerings in August 2018,  and then a similar Tasting for the even more remarkable 2016 vintage,  in June 2019.  

The present 2005 Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas Library tasting concludes this series of tastings on the (at best) wonderfully aromatic and exciting wines of the Southern Rhone Valley.  This time we will look at wines solely from 2005,  a year for which the vintage rating is creeping up and up.  The wines are regarded by Wine Spectator as:  ‘Wines show concentration, purity, and structure.  Great cellaring potential, 97/100’ .  They are scored higher than 1990,  but fractionally less than 2010 and 2016.  At 14 years of age,  they are perhaps halfway through their evolution:  they should be very exciting.  The more alcoholic 2007s we will defer.

One highlight for me in our set of wines will be to compare the three bottlings of Domaine de la Janasse,  one of the more highly regarded wineries,  but not yet so sought-after as to be unaffordable.  The standard Domaine Janasse was the top wine of our 2016 Worth Cellaring review:  we will have Domaine Janasse Chateauneuf-du-Pape,  a blend,  the more expensive Domaine Janasse Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Chaupin,  a 100% grenache bottling,  and as well,   Domaine Janasse Chateauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes,  now a rare wine in New Zealand.  Few people in New Zealand have tasted all three cuvées of Domaine Janasse together.

But the tasting also includes what are now regarded as some of the key or benchmark Chateauneufs:  Clos des Papes (now hard to buy in New Zealand),  Marcoux Vieilles Vignes both rare and valuable (one of the six-star wines,  see the comments from J.L-L below),  Mordorée Cuvée de la Reine,  and Vieux Telegraphe (the other six-star wine,  see the comments from J.L-L below).  Plus three Gigondas,  to compare and contrast,  including the relatively rare Saint Cosme Gigondas Hominis Fides,  also 100% grenache,  to compare with the Janasse Chaupin.  Three wines labelled Vieilles Vignes … but in fact when you go through the websites,  most of our wines are made from ‘old vines’.  All in all,  a tasting not to be missed.

Invitation to the Tasting – not one but two key wines:
One intriguing aspect to this tasting is:  we have two wines marked by John Livingstone-Learmonth as six stars out of five.  J.L-L is now the ultimate authority on the wines of both the Northern and Southern Rhone Valleys.  His allocating six stars … all part of his delightfully quirky style of reportage … is rarer than Robert Parker’s 100 points … and in the latter’s heyday they attracted plenty of attention.  Parker had both a fantastic grip of the Rhone valley wines,  witness his marvellous book from 1997,  but also loved the wines dearly (even when they were often quite bretty).  This gives him  an endearing credibility.  Livingstone-Learmonth shares that enthusiasm explicitly,  and his writing style is equally endearing.  In contrast Jancis Robinson rather gives the impression that the wines of the Southern Rhone Valley are mostly not her personal favourites,  and her associates seem hell-bent on following her lead,  rather than redressing the balance from her somewhat detached approach to this region.  Great interest therefore attaches to her review of one of  our wines,  also one of  J.L-L’s six-star wines,  2005 Domaine Marcoux Vieilles Vignes,  which she scores 19 … a score-level she has applied in the Southern Rhone Valley only a couple of dozen times in her entire career.  In the sense one cannot subscribe to all winewriters,  now that wine websites are multiplying like rabbits,  that leaves James Molesworth at Wine Spectator.  He has been reporting steadily on Southern Rhone Valley wines for more than 10 years now,  and his vintage chart summaries are the best in the business.  His wine reviews offer consistency,  but a vocabulary that can be difficult for non-Americans.  There is also a distressingly American consumerist view of the life expectancies of these wines.

Broadbent,  Michael  2002:   Michael Broadbent’s Vintage Wine.  Harcourt,  560 p.  
Broadbent,  Michael  2003:   Michael Broadbent’s Wine Vintages.  Mitchell Beazley,  223 p.  
Karis,  Harry  2009:  The Chateauneuf-du-Pape Wine Book.  Kavino,  488 p.
Parker,  Robert  1997:  Wines of the Rhone Valley.  Simon & Schuster,  685 p.
Parker,  Robert  2002:  Parker's Wine Buyers Guide Sixth Edition.  Simon & Schuster,  1,648 p.
https://www.decanter.com/features/rhone-2005-vintage-of-a-lifetime-247304/  – free part
ww.drinkrhone.com =  John Livingstone-Learmonth,  J. L-L below,  subscription needed
www.jancisrobinson.com  =  Jancis Robinson MW and Julia Harding MW,  subscription needed for reviews
www.robertparker.com  = Robert Parker and Jeb Dunnuck (then),  vintage chart,  subscription needed for reviews
www.winespectator.com = vintage chart,  subscription needed for reviews

Extensive use has been made of the vast information resource in John Livingstone-Learmonth's website,  as above.  A matching number of reviews from the Robert Parker website are also included,  to achieve pan-Atlantic judging balance.

Initial price given is the wine-searcher value today.  Approximate purchase price where known is in the text.

The 12 wines from the 2005 vintage,  still showing considerable depth of colour.  Numbering starts front row,  left.  Wine five the Santa Duc Hautes Garrigues the only one still with a youthful carmine hue.  Wine three is unnaturally light,  thought to be part-oxidised.  Wine six,  Vieux Telegraphe,  and wine 10,  Clos des Papes,  are classic / archetypal chateauneuf in appearance.  Wine 8 Janasse Chaupin,  and wine 12,  the Marcoux,  are fractionally lighter,  being 100% (or nearly) grenache.  The wines show much more substantial colour than the nicely-mature 1999s illustrated recently.

2005  Clos des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape
2005  Domaine de la Janasse Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Chaupin
2005  Domaine de la Janasse Chateauneuf-du-Pape Tradition
2005  Domaine de la Janasse Chateauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes
2005  Domaine de Marcoux Chateauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes
2005  Domaine de la Mordorée Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée de la Reine des Bois
  2005  Ch de Saint Cosme Gigondas Hominis Fides
2005  Ch de Saint Cosme Gigondas Valbelle
2005  Domaine Santa Duc Gigondas Les Hautes Garrigues
2005  Tardieu-Laurent Chateauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes
2005  Le Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf-du-Pape
2005  Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape La Crau

Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  15%;  $458   [ cork,  50mm,  original price c.$175;  Gr 95 – 100%,  trace other vars.,  all >80 years age;  all destemmed;  cuvaison up to 28 days in vat,  then elevation c.18 months in vat (concrete);  was older oak elevation pre 2002,  and again from 2006 on;  not fined,  is filtered;  organic and biodynamic wine;  production c.350 x 9-litre cases;  RP@RP,  2007,  recorded that the alcohol is in fact 16.7%;  J.L-L,  no date:  The Vieilles Vignes is one of the great Châteauneuf-du-Papes;  JR@JR,  2006:  Robinson's assessment of this wine is of particular interest.  For this wine,  and the 2003 equally,  she records her highest score ever for Domaine Marcoux (though she does have 20 or so other chateauneuf reviews at 19,  and barely a handful higher):  Very sumptuous yet not too concentrated – everything in great proportion. Not especially deep colour. Sweet and juicy on the front palate but with great integrity and restraint without being wimpy ... Dry but not drying finish. Very impressive wine that should have an impressively long life. This just hums without battering the senses. Lovely! 2009 – 2021, 19;  J.L-L,  2008:  ... oily, liqueur style aroma – sweet-toned red fruits, a little nuttiness; the nose is elegant, assured with a herb-garrigue presence. The palate continues in the same vein – straight into a refined, attractive red fruit that has a suave texture, a poised allure. Tremendous harmony here – wow! It is very consecutive and persistent, its refinement classy. The taste is plum, not quite to the extent of kirsch, in its beautiful palate. Gentle tannins pop up here and there. ... Great balance, a wine that shows the striking finesse of Châteauneuf-du-Pape when it is made from Grenache - all or mostly, 2030-34, ******;  JD@RP,  2015:  The 2005 Marcoux Châteauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes is a rock star that’s up with the top 2-3 wines of the vintage. Perfumed, complex and brilliantly Provencal, with sweet kirsch, pepper, crushed flowers and dried earth, it’s full-bodied, seamless and silky on the palate, with no hard edges and incredible length. Opening up in the glass, drink this heavenly Châteauneuf anytime over the coming decade or more, 2015 - 2030, 99;  weight bottle and cork 666 g;  the website www.domainedemarcoux.fr is a holding page only;  some info at;  www.chateauneuf.dk/en/cdpen81.htm ]
Ruby and some garnet,  lighter to the edge,  midway in depth.  This wine totally conveys the subtle magic of near-100% grenache Southern Rhone Valley wine,  in a softly floral bouquet for all the world like a slightly spirity grand cru Corton.  Bouquet blends a pink rose floral with fruit like red-tinged stewed nectarines,  really sensuous,  and totally pure.  Palate is sensational,  clearly the richest / greatest dry extract of any of these wines,  both succulent  and tactile,  yet totally dry.  There is enormous fruit length,  sustained on both the tannins of the year,  and what seems trace large wood.  This wine was placed at number 12 in the lineup,  on its richness,  but it followed an equally sensational wine which was darker,  more aromatic,  and less subtle.  Consequently #12 was somewhat overlooked by the group,  two second place votes only.  This wine is magical now,  perhaps at its peak for people who don't follow old wine.  It will however hold,  and soften,  for another 10 – 20 years.  GK 07/19

Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  15.5%;  $273   [ cork,  50mm;  original price c.$115;  cepage varies round Gr 80%,  Sy 10,  Mv 10 … and trace minor vars,  the GR >70 years age,  perhaps the others too;  20% whole-bunch,  up to 28 days cuvaison;  elevation 75% in foudre,  25% in small wood up to 30% new,  balance to 3 years old,  for 12 months,  then to assembly in vat 6 months;  fined,  not filtered;  c.1,125 x 9-litre cases;  J.L-L,  2007:  ... broad, smooth black fruits aroma, with a little pepper at its heart, there is licorice here, too. There is a sense of refinement in the ripe, even very ripe fruit on the palate ... black fruits ... Its tannic structure is the best of the three Chateauneufs from here [ in 2007 ], 2029-32, *****;  JD@RP,  2016:  A bigger, richer wine than the Chaupin (which is normal) ... Full-bodied, rich, decadent and unctuous on the palate, this beauty gives up fabulous notes of dark fruits, dusty soil, licorice, roasted herbs and toasted spice. It needs a short decant ..., 2016 - 2026, 96;  weight bottle and cork 674 g;  www.lajanasse.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  clearly above midway in depth.  Bouquet is amazingly vibrant,  youthful and fresh,  with a volume of red-fruit grapeyness,  plus the aromatics of both garrigue complexity and darker berries as well.  Below is a slightly more obvious oak component than the Marcoux,  but it is still well in the background.  Palate is much younger than the Marcoux,  rich,  but the darker fruits dominating the flavour at this stage.  Both grape and oak tannins are more noticeable here than in the Marcoux,  the wine seeming still youthful,  with tannin to lose.  The  concentration of flavour in these ‘old vine’ wines is a delight.  Tasters were enchanted with this wine,  nine first places and three second,  clearly the top wine.  It still needs a little time in cellar,  I think,  to lose some tannin:  it will cellar for 15 – 25 years at least.  GK 07/19

Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  14.5%;  $132   [ cork,  49mm;  original price c.$75;  Gr 65%,  Mv 15,  Sy 15,  balance authorised varieties hand-harvested from one of Chateauneuf's most famous vineyards,  average age all vines >50 years (then);  mostly destemmed,  cuvaison formerly shorter,  now to 30 even 40 days,  elevation c.12 months in concrete,  c.10 months in foudre;   not fined or filtered;  average annual production 16,5000 x 9-litre cases,  yet such is its fame it is hard to buy in New Zealand;  J.L-L, 2010:  Solid, impenetrable nose – a wall of black fruit, soaked black cherries, cocoa, especially dates. The palate is similar – this is really closed now, has droves of black fruit with a lining of firmly founded tannins. The length is good – it is a wine that runs solidly to the line, delivers a full, intense finish. Very deep. “There is enormous difference between the 2005 and 2006 – in 15 years, around 2025, the 2005 will be right there, and the 2006 will be a little old man,” Daniel Brunier. From 2014. 2030-34, ******;  JD@RP, 2015:  One of the most age-worthy cuvees in the appellation ... classic iodine, seaweed and peppery herbs intermixed with layers of sweet currant, plum and blackberry fruits. Full-bodied, powerful and ripe, with a still youthful profile, this beauty won’t hit full maturity for another 3-4 years, 2015 - 2030,  95;  weight bottle and cork 670 g;  www.vieux-telegraphe.fr ]
Ruby and a suggestion of garnet,  well below midway,  the third to lightest wine.  The bouquet on this chateauneuf is magical.  Like the Marcoux it is one of the subtler understated wines,  but it is nearly floral,  nearly ‘sweet’,  and wonderfully red-fruits fragrant,  plus clear saliva-inducing garrigue complexity.  Palate pretty well epitomises fine Chateauneuf-du-Pape,  beautiful succulent red fruits complexed with the darker notes of syrah and mourvedre,  all framed in superb oak much softer than the Janasse wines.  You could sniff this all night.  The aftertaste rests totally on fruit,  a nonsense statement in fact since the oak frames the berry so exquisitely. Tasters were a bit misled by this wine.  As a subtle wine,  between what turned out to be two oaky wines,  it  was rather overlooked,  no votes.  The sequencing should have anticipated this … but the full character of the wine is not always apparent straight after decanting.  The subtlety of the wine led many to believe this is a 100% (or nearly) grenache.  It is so perfectly balanced it will cellar for years,  and even when it is ‘too old’ it will still be beautiful.  A wonderful wine,  and one of the few said to be under 15%.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 07/19

Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  14.5%;  $191   [ cork,  49mm;  original price c.$85;   one of the few domaines making just the one grand vin (red),  plus a generic red;  described by J.L-L as the ‘Gold standard estate’;  becoming a rare wine in New Zealand;  cepage at the time was more Gr 65%,  Mv 20,  Sy 10,  others 5;  all cropped conservatively c.2.75 t/ha = 1.1 t/ac in 2005;  all destemmed,  21 days cuvaison;  elevation c.12 months in large foudres,  no new oak;  not fined or filtered;  annual production c.7,000 x 9-litre cases;  J.L-L,  2017:  … a hunky, bosky nose, animal with the Mourvèdre in the driving seat, roast meat, dates, black pepper. The palate is chunky – this is a real 2005 – with tenacious tannins. ****(*);  JD@RP,  2015:  ... decidedly more elegant and finesse-styled now than it was on release ... a perfumed bouquet of kirsch and blackberry-like fruits, licorice, incense, Asian spice and forest floor ... a core of sweet fruit, fine tannin and a balanced, harmonious feel. It’s not a powerhouse, and is drinking nicely today, with another decade of longevity, 2015 – 2025, 94;  weight bottle and cork 685 g;  www.clos-des-papes.fr ]
Ruby and some garnet,  the second to lightest wine.  This wine displays yet another beautiful,  mouth-watering bouquet of great purity,  with wonderful red fruits fractionally ‘cooler’ than the Vieux Telegraphe,  but like it with clear bouquet garni / garrigue qualities.  Palate has an almost Cote de Nuits / pinot noir quality to it in the first instance,  but it is also more ‘furry’ in its tannins,  with greater alcohol.  But as a wine,  in a tasting context,  you scarcely think about the alcohol.  This too,  like the Vieux Telegraphe,  simply epitomises the classical Chateauneuf-du-Pape winestyle.  Two tasters had this as their first or second wine.  It will be beautiful for another 10 – 20 years.  Alcohol said to be under 15%,  suggesting lower alcohols can be achieved with care.  GK 07/19

Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  15.5%;  $96   [ cork,  50mm;  original price c.$80;  Gr 100% ,  >70 years age,  hand-harvested;  80% de-stemmed;  cuvaison up to 28 days in concrete,  then 12 months in approx 2/3 foudre,  1/3 in 600s,  the latter 20 – 35% new,  the balance newish;  fined,  not filtered;  Chaupin first made 1989;  production 1,650 x 9-litre cases in 2005;  J.L-L,  2007:  ... sealed-up, tight bouquet ... holds black berries and an undertone of leaves and soil after rain, has more spine to it than the Tradition Janasse. Opulent, fat start to palate, with a creamy black fruits taste. Plenty of grip within, its density is prolonged, its tannins need leaving until 2010+,  2026-29, ****;  JD@RP,  2017:  ... a monumental beauty that offers loads of ripe blackberries, black raspberries, crushed flowers and garrigue aromas and flavors.  Concentrated, layered and unctuous, with a to-die-for texture, no hard edges and a huge finish, this beauty is still youthful and is just now starting to show hints of maturity,  2012 - 2027, 99;  weight bottle and cork 667 g;  www.lajanasse.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  clearly lighter than the Janasse Vieilles Vignes,  below midway in depth.  Bouquet on this wine is again grenache emulating pinot noir in a slightly spirity way,  the wine wonderfully fragrant,  a little deeper in fruit colour than the pink nectarines of the Marcoux,  here more red cherry / stewed red plum,  not quite so clearly floral,  but wonderfully fragrant.  In mouth new oak has a larger role to play,  this wine being quite aromatic (in one sense) and vibrant alongside the sensuous Marcoux.  Length of flavour is not quite as saturated as the Janasse Vieilles Vignes,  but by Chateauneuf-du-Pape standards in general,  this too is a rich wine.  It still has a little tannin to lose,  and will cellar for another 10 – 20 years.  Three tasters had this as their top or second wine,  and nine (accurately) identified it as one of the near-100% grenache wines.  GK 07/19

Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  14.5%;  $83   [ cork,  49mm;  original price c.$90;   in 2005 Gr 90%,  Sy 5,  Mv 5,  from the La Crau sector;  not covered by J.L-L,  not clear from Tardieu-Laurent website if details now apply in 2005 vintage,  but maybe 66% of crop de-stemmed;  no cuvaison detail,  elevation then the Sy and Mv in new or newish small wood,  the Gr in large wood,  for 12 months,  then 12 months in older foudre;  not fined or filtered;   Philippe Cambie consults;  JR@JR,  2006:   Super-ripe blackberries-in-the-sun sort of aromas. Gosh, one could imagine a trickle of this on a scoop of vanilla ice cream! It’s a sort of crème de mûre kind of wine – so sweet but with the backing and depth to take the alcohol ... The very fine tannins keep it refreshing, 2014 – 2024, 18;  RP@RP,  2007:  This is a beautiful wine that is more elegant than the regular Chateauneuf du Pape, with raspberry and kirsch liqueur notes ... finesse, acidity, and ripe tannin ... a style midway between the traditionalists and the modernists ... 2014 – 2037, 91 -- 93;  weight bottle and cork 911 g;  http://tardieu-laurent.fr ]
Ruby,  velvet and some garnet,  just above midway in depth of colour.  Bouquet here is aromatic,  a lot more oak and noticeably cedary new oak,  so much so you can't be sure if there is garrigue complexity.  Red and darker fruits seem equally prominent.  Palate is quite rich,  as you would hope with the Vieilles Vignes designation,  but the high-quality oak almost leads the flavours.  This is very much a modern wine,  but has the richness to marry up a good deal more in cellar,  10 – 20 years.  One taster had it as second favourite,  but in contrast,  a couple of  people had it least,  not liking so much new oak in their Southern Rhones.  How it is scored could therefore vary considerably.  GK 07/19

Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  14%;  $125   [ cork,  49mm;  original cost $65;  Gr 75%,  Sy 10,  Mv 10,  balance minor varieties,  75% of the vines more than 80 years old;  18 – 25 days cuvaison,  50% destemming (particularly the Mv),  co-fermentation,  cuvaison to 25 days;  elevation c.18 months in large old wood;  not fined,  lightly filtered;  production c.4,000 9-litre cases;  moreso even than Domaine Charvin and Clos des Papes,  each with their ‘Cotes du Rhone’ (or equivalent) junior wines,  Vieux Donjon makes only one red Chateauneuf,  one white.  As with the other two,  this means the buyer is getting the essence of the place;  Philippe Cambie consults;  J.L-L,  2008:  There is good purity in the fruit, and it lengthens well. Finishes on its tannins, with extra kick that brings raisin cake notes. The purity in both the bouquet and the palate is good. A tight wine now ... On the upward path – more to offer, to 2026 – 2028, ****;  JD@RP,  2015:  Vieux Donjon has produced a classic Châteauneuf du Pape in 2005, and it has the focused, structured feel of the vintage, yet avoids the harsh tannin that’s found in a lot of cuvees. Exhibiting impressive notes of peppered meats, tapenade, sweet spice, iron and garrigue, with a core of sweet Grenache fruit, this beauty is medium to full-bodied, concentrated and textured on the palate, with superb overall balance. It’s enjoyable today, but will continue to evolve nicely for another decade or longer.  2015 - 2020, 93;  weight bottle and cork 675 g;  the website www.levieuxdonjon.fr is merely a holding page:  good summary and delightful photo of Claire Fabre and Philippe Cambie @;  www.chateauneuf.dk/en/cdpen58.htm ]
Ruby and velvet,  just below midway in depth.  In the hierarchy of tasting results,  this was the first wine to suggest just a hint of old-fashioned savoury / gamey complexity in its berry-rich bouquet,  but at a vanishingly low level.  And there is some garrigue complexity too.  Palate shows both red and darker fruits,  with a lovely tannin structure from big old wood only,  all finishing attractively savoury … and crying out for a rich casserole.  Tasters reacted to  this wine in a very interesting way,  one first place,  but eight second favourites.  Curiously,  11 tasters thought it a near-100% grenache wine – not sure why.  There is good richness,  and any brett is at such a low level it seems safe to cellar the wine another 5 – 15 years.  GK 07/19

Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  14.5%;  $91   [ cork,  50mm;  original price c.$75;  old-vine Gr 100% planted 1902,  same vineyard as Valbelle;  hand-harvested,  average yield c.3.75 t/ha = 1.5 t/ac;  cuvaison up to 28 days in s/s,  whole-bunch fermentations;  elevation c. 12 months,  all the wine in Burgundy barrels,  30% new then (20% now),  balance 1-,  2- and 3-year-old barrels;  Hominis Fides first made in 2003,  c. 200 x 9-litre cases,  not made every year,  usually no fining or filtering,  tending organic wine;  Louis Barruol considers that with age,  suggestions of Morey-Saint-Denis appear – peony and red fruits;  J.L-L,  2008:  Live, assertive raspberry fruit on the palate, is full and a little taken to its limits. The tannins are largely absorbed, and there is a chunky finish, led by some oak, ***;  JD@RP,  2015:  More elegant and seamless than the rich, concentrated Valbelle, the 2005 Gigondas Hominis Fides is another serious wine from this estate that’s drinking beautifully. Full-bodied and rich, yet seamless and silky, with ultra-fine tannin, it exhibits classic black raspberry, currants, creosote and licorice aromas and flavors, beautiful Provencal charm, and a balanced, pure, hard to resist style, 2015 - 2025, 95;  weight bottle and cork 598;  www.saintcosme.com ]
Ruby,  velvet and some garnet,  well above midway in depth.  This wine showed a good volume of bouquet,  but like the Tardieu-Laurent,  with rather a lot of new oak intruding into what traditionalists think of as fine Chateauneuf-du-Pape / Gigondas character.  The wine is very pure.  Pushing through the cedary new oak,  there are rich red fruits browning a little now.  Palate continues the oak,  but with good fruit coating it,  so the flavour is long,  richer than Valbelle.  Like the Tardieu-Laurent,  it is a modern presentation of the district wine style,  but unlike the other high / 100% grenache wines here,  the exact grenache varietal character is a bit lost in the oak tannin.  Tasters liked the wine,  three top places,  three second – the oak effect I suspect,  for it did not sit quite so happily with food.  Cellar 5 – 10 years,  maybe 15,  but it might become a little dry.  GK 07/19

Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  14.5%;  $111   [ cork,  50mm;  original price c.$55;  old-vine Gr 90%,  Sy 10,  hand-harvested,  average yield c.3.75 t/ha = 1.5 t/ac;  cuvaison up to 28 days in s/s,  whole-bunch fermentations;  elevation c. 12 months,  all the wine in Burgundy barrels,  30% new then (20% now),  balance 1-,  2- and 3-year-old barrels;  Valbelle first made in 1993,  not made every year,  usually no fining or filtering,  tending organic wine;  J.L-L,  2007:  The nose is rather ... dry … Has a mature fruits, raisin flavour – Christmas cake doused in rum, ***;  JD@RP,  2015:  Deeper and richer than the classic cuvee ... incredible bouquet of blackcurrants, charcoal, licorice, toasted spice and charred meats ... full-bodied, deep and concentrated on the palate ... gorgeous fruit and a great finish. This is every bit as good as the Hominis Fides, 2015 – 2025, 95;  weight bottle and cork 599 g;  www.saintcosme.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  just above midway in depth.  This is another wine with just a hint of old-fashioned savoury character,  on good red fruit browning now.  It also has some lovely garrigue complexity,  so it is very ‘in style’ for the southern Rhone Valley.  Palate shows darker aromatic fruits adding to the red flavours of grenache,  with much subtler oaking than the prestige Hominis Fides label,  even though the two are said to share a similar  barrel regime.  We did not have room in the tasting for the Gigondas Tradition label,  which has only big old wood,  and in a dinner table context is often the better for it.  This was another wine to not attract any votes,  just nicely in the middle.  Cellar another 5 – 10 years.  GK 07/19

Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  15%;  $56   [ cork,  50mm;  original price $56;  Gr 80% ,  Mv 15 (since increased),  balance Sy and Ci,  Gr >50 years age,  hand-harvested at c.2 t/ha = 0.8 t/ac in 2005;  up to 35 days cuvaison with whole bunches then,  some destemming now;  elevation 90% in foudre,  10% 228-litre barrels,  up to 20 months;  not filtered,  organic wine,  c.1,150 x 9-litre cases;  J.L-L,  2008:  … full and assertive bouquet – blackberry fruit with a clear delivery, young, round and a bit spirity … coherent blackberry fruit … ends on quite a rich tone, with good, chocolate moments … a long-term bet, 2010 – 2022, ***(*);  JD@RP,  2016:  I continue to love the 2005 Gigondas Prestige des Hautes Garrigues, and it's absolutely one of the wines of the vintage ... beautiful notes of black raspberries, crushed rock, ground herbs and spice, it's still structured and tannic on the palate, yet has terrific concentration and a big finish. Yves said this wine still needs another decade of cellaring, 2018 – 2035, 96;  rare for an American longevity estimate to be greater than a UK one;  weight bottle and cork 600 g;  www.santaduc.fr ]
Remarkably deep ruby and velvet,  nearly carmine still and noticeably youthful,  clearly the deepest colour,  quite different from the other 11 wines.  Bouquet is both savoury,  and darkly plummy,  with dark fruitcake notes and suggestions of  currants (grape,  not black).  Three only of 21 tasters (one a winemaker) noted brett in the savoury complexity,  so again it is fairly subtle.  Flavour is rich,  dry,  a lot of furry tannins as if mourvedre were high (later,  yes),  yet oak tannins seem subtle and low.  Interesting wine,  which is probably well worth gambling that it will be softer and more food-friendly in 10 and 20 years,  even though it may end up rather dry.  No votes as favourite.  GK 07/19

Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  15%;  $195   [ cork,  49mm;  original price c.$95 (ie,  expensive then);  Gr 80%,  Mv 10,  Va 5,  balance Sy,  Ci,  counoise,  hand-picked @ 3.9 t/ha = 1.6 t/ac,  some of the grenache 90 years old,  some 100+;  viticulture now organic;  this wine in the later ‘90s contrasted with traditional practice in Chateauneuf du Pape,  being completely destemmed,  cuvaison up to 21 days,  then for elevation in 2005,  40% of the wine aged in new and newish small oak for 9 months or more,  the balance in s/s,  with a total elevation then of 24 months;  now less;  not fined,  filtered to bottle;  production varies,  but c.1,250 x 9-litre cases;  since the turn of the century the new oak has been reduced markedly;  organic now but not then;  J.L-L,  2007:  smoky, brooding bouquet with a lot of content; deep, sustained black fruits on palate, olives and southern herbs as well. Good life in this, is open-sided with a fringe of tannin that works well. Broad and elegant, good juice in the texture. Good length, clear finish. I like its balance, 2029-31, *****;  JD@RP,  2015:  ... incredibly consistent ... always an upper-90s scoring wine ... big, full-bodied, structured ... followed by a terrific bouquet of ripe black fruits, toasted spice, graphite, chocolate and garrigue, 2015 - 2030, 97;  weight bottle and cork 653 g;  www.domaine-mordoree.com ]
Deep ruby and velvet,  the second deepest wine.  Bouquet is clean,  a bit spirity,  the nett impression being of dark Christmas cake,  not as fresh and grapey as most of these,  and rather a lot of oak including some new.  Palate is dark,  the flavours just a bit over-ripe and tanniny – hence the Christmas cake / dessert raisins analogy,  with new oak and alcohol both noticeable.  This is not a charmer at this stage,  in the way the 1998 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Reine des Bois now is.  At table I imagine this might become a bit tiring to  drink (by Old World standards),  even though it is ‘pure’.  Cellar 10 – 20  years,  hopefully to lose some tannin.  No votes as a favourite.  GK 07/19

Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  14.5%;  $54   [ cork,  50mm,  original price c.$62;  cepage varies round Gr 80%,  Sy 10,  Mv 10 … and trace minor vars,  the GR >70 years age,  perhaps the others too;  20% whole-bunch,  up to 28 days cuvaison;  elevation 75% in foudre,  25% in small wood up to 30% new,  balance to 3 years old,  for 12 months,  then to assembly in vat 6 months;  fined,  not filtered;  c.1,125 x 9-litre cases;  J.L-L,  2007:  ... broad, smooth black fruits aroma, with a little pepper at its heart, there is licorice here, too. There is a sense of refinement in the ripe, even very ripe fruit on the palate ... black fruits ... Its tannic structure is the best of the three Chateauneufs from here [ in 2007 ], 2029-32, *****;  JD@RP,  2016:  A bigger, richer wine than the Chaupin (which is normal) ... Full-bodied, rich, decadent and unctuous on the palate, this beauty gives up fabulous notes of dark fruits, dusty soil, licorice, roasted herbs and toasted spice. It needs a short decant ..., 2016 - 2026, 96;  weight bottle and cork 673 g;  www.lajanasse.com ]
Light ruby,  some garnet,  the lightest wine by far.  And as soon as you smell it,  it becomes the mystery wine of the tasting.  Despite the cork seeming to be perfect in all respects,  the wine smells faded,  drying,  tired,  showing incipient / trace acetaldehyde.  In mouth it is clean,  but the red fruits browning,  the wine perfectly drinkable but tending short and dry.  The nett impression is of some oxidation.  At least oxidised wines are always better with food than reduced ones.  You just have to hope it is another example of inexplicable ‘cork failure’,  and the next bottle will be quite different.  Tasters were united on this wine,  11 votes for least wine.  GK 07/19